This is for anyone considering taking the leap – whether that’s changing career paths, moving city or quitting to go freelance like me. It’s some things I’ve learnt and some thoughts i’ve had…
Freelance producing full time was always a scary prospect to me, and something I really thought I was decades away from. But, a few months ago, I knew something had to give.
I had a particularly busy and demanding Autumn in 2017. For the first time since working in the arts professionally I would say I well and truly burnt out. That is not to say that what I had been working on wasn’t joyous, rewarding and worth the feeling after. What became the problem was the day job – the money job – the thing that meant regular income, security and being able to buy really good coffee.
I dithered for a while, desperately looking for something else but part time instead, something flexible but standard. A safety net. I was certain I couldn’t chance it and I felt a lot of guilt as I thought about leaving my current job. For a long time it was so much more than a day job; this was working professionally within a theatre, with a salary, in the arts! I didn’t want to take it for granted, but I knew I couldn’t sustain it much longer.
It takes a bit of time to know what you’re after. Whether that’s producing like me, or performing or directing etc. If you no longer have capacity left to say yes to what you want to say yes to then something has to go.
So, long story short, I handed in my notice in February, and this is what i’ve learnt:
- Cherish Your Support Network. Never have I valued my network more than now. The day job i’m quitting from is managing the Box Office at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre. They are my second home. Craig and the rest of the team have undoubtedly been the reason i’ve been able to do what i’m doing. He gave Flickbook it’s first professional opportunity, and that was the first rung of the ladder for us and me as an individual. My Flickbookers are my second family – we laugh, we cry and sometimes we disagree but they are so special to me and we are incredibly supportive of what each other are doing. Boy, do they have my back. And if I were to try and name all of the rest this would get very long indeed, but my point is; nourish your network, be supportive and you will always get support back.
- Tell People. This has taken me a while! It wasn’t until September last year that I would have said “I am a theatre producer” – I still find it bit alien to say it now. But I learnt that if I tell people i’m pursuing producing work then they can start recommending me for things, and that has equaled more work. I thought I was going to get looks of dubiousness when I first decided to go freelance, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, I got “Finally!”
- Leap But Avoid Falling. Before I handed in my notice I had made a very sexy spreadsheet. It’s a financial forecast for the coming year with confirmed and expected funds, cash flow and a breakdown of my previous self assessment figures. etc etc. It’s genuinely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever created. This was what made me see I was ready – I calculated I can live (cheaply) until January 2019 IF I quit LPAC so I can say yes to a couple of other things. I would have only done it if I new I viably could. So i’m not being reckless, but I am being brave, I think that’s the difference.
- Gut Instinct. On that note, I have a very good relationship with my gut! I use it from whether to say yes or no to a project or whether to have Cheese Ploughmans or Egg Mayo. It is vital to my decision making process and means that the process itself is usually quite quick. I know if this is the right thing to do, and for me, right now, this certainly is.
- Everyone Gets Imposter Syndrome and everyone is making it up as they go along. It’s the moment of thinking “when are they going to find out I have no idea what i’m doing?” I get a moment like this at least once a day. I have learnt to embrace and enjoy its novelty.
- Know It Will Be Hard. I am a very practical and realistic person, and I think I know what I have let myself in for… We’ll see. But I know it will be hard work, but that’s definitely what I enjoy most.
Thanks for taking a look at my ramblings. It was good to get that out.